How to negotiate a used travel trailer purchase: 16 Shrewd Business Practices
Generally, buying a used RV is more inexpensive than a new one. The problem is some RV dealerships and sellers can be sleazy in their pricing, and if you make an impulsive purchase decision, it’s easy to get taken advantage of.
It’s a shameful practice, but there’re no rules to follow in the purchase process. Most predatory RV dealerships know at the end of the day, their high-pressure tactics will work and yield them more money.
So, how do you outsmart any RV salesman for the best dealership ever?
In the guide below, I’ll share some of the key negotiation skills and techniques I used to purchase used travel trailers for a great price.
16 Tips for Negotiating a Great Deal on a Used Trailer Purchase
1) Play Hard
If negotiating a used RV is anything like negotiating for a car, you’ll hardly get a good deal unless you’re ready to walk out.
It’s either you play hard or get bent over; it’s the rule of the game, sorry. Always remember that all salespersons, regardless of how sweet their smiles are and reasonable their communication is, are out to get you.
So, if the conversation isn’t in your favor, and they can’t meet your expectations, be prepared to walk away.
In most cases, walking away makes the salespeople nervous because they know you might get a better deal. In several instances, I’ve had an RV salesman approach me as I backed off their parking lot, asking what we could do for the deal I had proposed earlier.
2) Be Conservative and Talk Less
There’s an old saying about whoever talks first loses the most. Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk, but be wary of talking yourself out of a deal.
Sometimes, you slip things the dealer will use against use during a negotiation. For example, if you say, “I need an X-priced trailer but could also consider price Y.” Guess what, your price Y, or if not a little more, becomes their lowest price for your particular coach, and yet, you could have gotten it for X amount or lower if you had stood firm.
3) Don’t Get Emotionally Attached To A Product
I’m in the sales department of a blue-chip software company, and over the years, I’ve learned a lot from buyers of large corporations.
One of those things is you should never become attached or obsessed with a particular product. Once you become fixated on a particular RV, the salesperson will take advantage of that because you’ve limited options.
You must always remind yourself that there’re other similar and awesome products. And when the time for pressing on the price comes, don’t let them push you into an alternative model if you can’t match the price of a particular RV.
The other thing is never to act negotiating for a particular rig as a big game; otherwise, the salesperson will catch on and feel the need to “win.”
4) Don’t Be in a Rush
RVs are luxury items. You don’t need one; you want it. So, you can always wait; with time, you might get a better-quality option at a huge discount.
The other thing is the RV market is starting to turn out to be a buyer’s market. Most dealerships have a backlog of pre-Covid inventory. All the guys that purchased RVs because of Covid and found out RVing isn’t for them are fire-selling their RVs.
It’s also worth waiting and speculating on the prices of used RVs from private sellers. For example, I had been looking for a motorcoach since the spring of last year.
I saw an ad on the FB marketplace that was going for 15k. I kept an eye on it; weeks later, it dropped to 13k. I would just log into FB marketplace, check on it and others, and I noticed that with time, the prices would drop after every few weeks.
So, yeah, take your time, and don’t be in a hurry. Wait until the prices drop to your expectation.
5) Never let the salesman know you’re paying cash
Dealerships usually get a cut from the banks or lending institutions once clients get financing from them. In fact, financing is usually more lucrative and profitable than selling the unit itself.
Therefore, you’re likely to get a better deal if you lead them to think they’ll also get financing from you.
So, be coy when negotiating for your RV, and don’t be upfront about the method you’ll use to pay. During the negotiation, work on them to give you an out-of-the-door price in writing before making the purchase.
You must always get a signed price before payment, whether in cash or finance.
6) Don’t Buy the Financing Thing
I don’t buy into the finance thing. It’s a helpful way to purchase a trailer, especially when you’re financially strapped, but it’s costlier at the end of the day.
After all, why do you think the dealers are willing to take the risk and hassle involved, including a complete transaction that may end up back on their lot.
You’re always spending much more on financing, especially on interest rates, warranties, and everything.
So, unless you must take financing for your RV purchase, I suggest cash payment for a smooth, complete transaction.
If anything, financing is getting harder nowadays, especially for non-essential and luxury items. I’ve a finance guy who told me getting RV financing is hard unless you’ve multiple lines of credit and a perfect score.
7) Research Prices of Used RVs
The next important negotiation tip is to understand your choice of RV, specifically the “right” price for a particular configuration and make. Also, understand how much discount people getting on the RV and what’s the absolute highest price you’re willing to pay?
There’re several ways to go about determining a reasonable price for an RV. You could start by contacting all the RV dealerships within your locality and find the lowest price. Then play the dealerships after each other and get a deal price.
You could also get a quote from Jeff Couch’s RV Nation. Dealers usually get pissed when they know you’ve one.
The way I usually go about getting a reasonable quote for a particular RV is to download the RVTrader app, and find the same year, make, model, and specifications on a national search.
Then find what the average price is. You could also sort by the lowest price on your particular coach.
Of course, the prices aren’t standard nationwide and will depend on the trailer’s condition, but it should give you a reference of what to base your offer on. With technology, I don’t see the need to haggle the old-fashioned way.
8) Where to Buy
Where you buy your RV may determine whether you’ll get a deal for your RV.
One of the locations you’re likely to get great pricing for your RV is at the RV trade shows. I do a lot of shows and have spent quality time with a few retail customers, and I know that most vendors will offer discounts on show models, so they don’t have to transport their merchandise back.
New dealerships are also another great location to find RVs at discounted prices. For a year or two, the dealerships in the market are willing to offer discounted prices to create a positive rapport. They also can’t afford to turn you away.
Large dealerships tend to make more on sales because they usually get a little extra volume incentive and can absorb the fixed overhead. It’s not always true, but it’s common in most cases.
Finally, consider the struggling dealerships. These are likely to play ball, especially if they’ve aged RV in their lots that should be disposed of. Remember that the aged units hardly mature well on used RV lots.
9) Go Online?
There’re two main ways you can negotiate for a used RV. You can do it online, including signing the paperwork, or you can go to the dealer.
I’ve done it both ways, and I don’t have a preference necessarily.
I first suggest you buy local, but consider expanding your search nationwide. See, RVs aren’t like cars. For example, you can always find a Prius or Mustang for every couple of car dealerships you visit locally, but you’ll never find a Winnebago Dutch Star at every local dealership.
But there’s something about going to the dealer and having a physical preference. The salespeople have more intimate contact with you and don’t want to see you walking off the lot. That’s a benefit for you when you show up physically to a dealer to purchase an RV.
On the other hand, doing the RV negotiation has less pressure for you. But it’s also a lot less pressure for the dealer.
A quick phone call requesting a quotation won’t yield the same results as when you go down to look for a good price physically.
And from experience, the internet is mainly about moving volume, and price negotiations tend to be harder.
Shopping physically is also a nice excuse to visit new places so that the basement prices drop significantly.
10) Timing is Key
Timing may also determine whether you get a huge discount for your trailer. For example, a season, such as a summer, isn’t a seasonally good negotiating timeframe. It’s a season of selling, not buying RVs.
The best time to make an offer is at the end of the month, off-season because most sales teams usually get paid by monthly commissions.
I’d also recommend you don’t pick your RV on Saturdays or national holidays. Most dealerships close their service department by noon, and there’s usually insufficient staff to give you all the attention.
So, it’s likely that you might find some items on the checklist missing when doing your final walk-through. The dealership might trick you, telling you to bring it back another day.
Don’t fall for this. You must ensure your checklist is complete before you leave the lot. Otherwise, they’ll screw your warranty time once you pay them by holding your RV for “months” as they wait for a “replacement” part.
11) Negotiate “Out the Door” Price Only
When negotiating the price of a used RV, you must ensure it is the “out the door” price.
A big problem with most RV dealers is they drastically cut the rig’s price and then get extra money from you in the form of added fees, financing, documentation fees, etc.
Tell them the price you’re negotiating is, out the door, with taxes, license, fees, and everything included. They usually add up these fees to make up for their loss.
The only fees you should have after paying for your motorcoach are the tax/license and an acceptable documentation fee. I wouldn’t pay anything more than $200 for the documentation fee.
Also, be wary of the extra warranties. Most are usually worthless. And if you’re planning to get an extended warranty, you must do it before the purchase.
But always think twice about the extended RV warranties. They’re not like cars and could have your trailers for months on end waiting for parts or time to fix.
12) Know Details of your RV
Purchasing an RV doesn’t have to be a negative experience. The way to minimize the pain in the RV purchase experience is simply to educate yourself.
Go to the negotiation table fully armed, knowing your facts and everything about your choice of campervan you want to purchase.
You’d be surprised that many salesmen may not know the specifics of your RV. It’s not a necessarily a knock against them, but it might be a +1 on your side.
In particular, you should know what a fair discount in your region is and the maximum amount you’re willing to pay.
13) Treat the RV Purchase as a Car Purchase
I love negotiating and always treat my RV purchase experience like a car. While it’s not similar, considering the amount, the purchase principles are all the same, and there’s no need to beat yourself.
14) Know your Dealer
When going to the negotiation table, it also makes sense to learn about the dealership or salesperson.
There’re different styles of salespeople, and you must find their motivations.
For example, some dealers are trying to move as much inventory as possible, while others sell fewer units at a higher price.
15) Capitalize on the Add Ons
The add-ons, such as GAP insurance and warranties, are some of the places you can make large negotiation headway.
Get an insurance quotation from your provider, and then ask for a counteroffer through the dealer. It’s, in most cases, cheaper. Plus, it’s also leverage for the RV price ECT.
16) Pay Someone
If negotiating isn’t your forte, you could pay someone to do it on your behalf. Some guys do it professionally.
If you’ve a friend or family member who would be comfortable being your voice, it could help reduce the stress and hassle of the negotiation.
Obviously, you don’t want to overpay for your used rig, but the main focus should be how much joy a motorhome will bring and less on the discounts you get off the prices.
Be realistic when making a quotation, and ask yourself whether the offered price is appropriate for the happiness and joy the rig will bring your family. Nothing matters more.